Wichita Thunder general manager Joel Lomurno didn't give coach Brent Bilodeau an ultimatum — at least publicly. But Lomurno didn't deliver a vote of confidence, either.
In an impromptu state of the Thunder address earlier this week, Lomurno said that the Thunder, 2-6 and with the fewest points in the Central Hockey League, must show immediate and lasting improvement.
"We really thought we were going to be one of the better teams in the North," he said. "So far, that hasn't happened. Everything has been a disaster, and everyone needs to be held accountable — from myself, to the players, to Brent.
"And Brent knows that. I don't have to say it. He knows the team can't continue this way. We need to go on a winning streak, period."
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The Thunder has an opportunity to begin righting itself when Rapid City (4-4) visits tonight in the Kansas Coliseum.
Once one of the CHL's proudest franchises, the Thunder was coming off a 20-42-2 mark and in dismal shape when Bilodeau arrived two seasons ago. Bilodeau, a former assistant in the East Coast Hockey League, went with a youth movement, but the team struggled to a 20-41-3 record in his rookie season.
Bilodeau, while admitting that he has some worry about job security, preaches patience.
"Well, it's always a concern; you've got to win," he said of the possibility of losing his job. "In the same sense, it's a process. You can't build a team overnight. As much as this city wants it to happen right now, it's not going to happen right away.
"It's my second year, and we're going to get better. I know we're going to get better. We're just a couple pieces away."
The list of Thunder problems is long.
The team can't score and can't win at home.
No. 1 goalie Tim Boron, still recovering from hip surgery and a lingering illness, isn't 100 percent and has a 4.67 goals-against average. Bilodeau plans to meet with Boron this morning to discuss his health.
The Thunder's best playmaker, Jason Duda, is on injured reserve with an aching back. And on Sunday, Bilodeau waived Damian Surma, who was supposed to be one of the team's best offseason acquisitions.
"We played Colorado tough, and their coach said, 'Gee, you guys are tough to play against,' " Bilodeau said of a recent loss to one of the CHL's best teams. "We do so many things well, but we're not quite there. If it comes to getting rid of a few guys and bringing in some new guys, so be it."
There is added pressure on Bilodeau and the players.
In January, the Thunder leaves the Kansas Coliseum and moves into Intrust Bank Arena.
"We move into a new arena in two months, and this organization cannot afford another crappy season," Lomurno said. "If we're sitting at the bottom of the league come January, how can we expect people to be excited about seeing this team?
"Things are serious. We've already released one of our higher-end players (Surma), so that should be an indication that no one is safe."